26 March 2015

Anna and the French Kiss Series–Stephanie Perkins

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I am not writing a review as such, this is more statement of my thoughts on the series, I have now read the three books in this series and I have a few things to say.

I do like series like this, where you have independent books which vaguely link to each other as you have some 6 degrees and Kevin Bacon happening with the characters from each book. They are all vaguely linked, but you can still read the books completely separately of one another. I love stories like that, because you can dip in and out as you please. I did not realise that was what these books were going to be like when I picked Anna and the French Kiss up, though.

The first time I read that book I was not impressed. I picked it up because I do that thing on Amazon and Goodreads where it goes people who read this also read… and I followed through to this book from another YA high school book when I’d been in the mood for some high school based YA contemporary romance. I was expecting to enjoy it, but I just didn’t. I don’t know if it was because it was so bizarre having an American high school in Paris, or if it was because they were all rich and it made me roll my eyes. I don’t know if it was simply I didn’t understand the whole Anna and St Clair dynamic. Whatever it was, in my first read through, something didn’t click.

I then got into book blogging, and bloggers raved about Stephanie Perkins and her books and I thought maybe I had been too critical in my first reading, maybe I’d been wrong to judge so harshly. I read the book again, after all, I’d bought it on my Kindle, it deserved a reread. I go to my Goodreads though, and see I’ve given it a very poor rating still. I did not dislike it quite so much on my second reading. I liked the characters, Anna was nice and there were friendships which I found redeemed the book in some way, but I still did not love it as so many bloggers seemed to.

After giving the first book such a negative review, you may question why did I still wished to read the rest of Perkins books? Well, I bought the short story collection she edited, My True Love Gave To Me, and I absolutely loved her short story. I figured, a woman who could write a short story like that, which I thoroughly enjoyed, must be capable of writing books I’ll enjoy. So, I bought Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After for my kindle, because why not?

I mentioned how I wanted to read Lola and the Boy Next Door in a TTT post and people responded saying they really enjoyed the book, it was one of their favourites. I decided to read it and I completely understood why there were so many good things said about Stephanie Perkins. Lola and the Boy Next Door is set in San Francisco, Lola does not go to the American school in Paris, she lives a much more normal life, and I think that is probably the reason for me enjoying the book so much more than the first.

I thought Lola was lovely, she was a typical teenager, dramatic and over the top struggling to figure out who she is. Her array of clothes fascinated me, the way she put on costumes and wigs and changed her appearance so dramatically, it was so insane and so interesting. And her family, it was complicated, but I adored her dads. They were hilarious. I think they made the book for me with their humour, a highlight for me is after they discover a boy sleeping over in Lola’s bed (I will not reveal which boy, but if you’ve read it you’ll know) and they are upset vowing no boy shall get to sleep with Lola she cannot do things like that. She asks about what happens when she is married, they’re response?
“We’ll buy a camp bed. Your husband can sleep on that when he visits.”
Everything about Lola’s story was that bit more relatable, and that bit more fun. Sure, there was drama to be had, and Lola created a lot of drama for herself, but it was not the drama you witness in Anna and the French Kiss and I preferred it so much more. Loved it even. It was my favourite of the series.

From my opinion on the second book, you will completely understand why I then decided to read Isla and the Happily Ever After last week. Again, I had an issue with it. I think it may be the Paris setting and the fact these people come from rich families. Maybe I am a reverse snob and look down upon those with more money than me, I don’t know. I enjoyed it. I gave it a 4 star rating, but I almost gave it a three because there were things that bothered me.

Isla was whiny, I forgave it though because she is a teenage girl struggling with her insecurities. Those insecurities grated upon me in the book, though. I know it was partly just because I am past that stage of my life and sometimes struggle to remember what it can be like. I am insecure about things, but I try to not let them stop me from doing things, but all I saw in the book was Isla letting her concerns take over for her. She was continually holding herself back for no obvious reason.

I thought I might be able to relate to her indecision about her future, a feeling I most definitely can relate to, but Isla just seemed to expect her future to fall into her lap. I certainly never set out and actively pursued some things, but I researched, I planned, I applied to about a gazillion jobs and worked to get where I was. I may have hoped someone would tell me what to do at times, but I did not simply leave it to fate to decide. I made the effort and made the decision. I wanted to shake Isla and tell her to do the same. No one knows exactly where they are going to be, she didn’t need a set plan for life, but I wanted her to make more of an effort.

I did enjoy the book, though. I loved Isla’s entire family dynamic, it was interesting and I loved how her relationship evolved with her younger sister, who was fun and becoming a grown up person in her own right. I enjoyed seeing her grow as Isla realised she was more than simply her little sister. I liked Isla’s relationship with Josh, especially after she overcame some of her insecurities and grew into herself. Isla’s close relationship with Kurt was fantastic, to have a friend who can be bluntly honest with you at times is something you need, especially when you’re being stupid, having someone to point it out is required. Maybe I found the character of Isla hitting too close to home for me? There are some similarities in our personalities, especially from when I was a teenager. The insecurity and shyness is something I can relate to and that is often something can make for an uncomfortable read, but I don’t know.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about a series I only seem to want to complain about. Well, I wanted to because there are pros and cons to the series, but one thing I cannot deny from all my reading is Stephanie Perkins is a fantastic writer. These books were good reads, even the ones I didn’t enjoy I did still like and want to recommend to others. They deserve the attention they get, even if I don’t agree with some of the praise.

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